Friday, February 8, 2008

Mark Twain -- On Film!

From the YouTube listing:

"Silent film footage taken in 1909 by Thomas Edison at Stormfield (CT) at Mark Twain's estate. Twain is shown walkng around his home and playing cards with his daughters Clara and Jean. The flickering is due to film deterioration, but this is the only known footage of the great author."

Book News, In Brief

Want to take a trip down memory lane the seedy back alleys of the psychologically scarred? Learning To Share has just posted a big collection of vintage paperback cover art. Even if you don't have the time to check out their entire collection, at least click this post's accompanying image. Why aren't publishers putting teaser lines like this on today's books?
(Original heads-up: Boing Boing)

Jack T. Chick, perhaps the creepiest comics legend ever to put pen to paper, gets profiled in the Tallahassee Democrat. For those of you lucky enough not to have your nightmares haunted by Chick's heavy-handed artwork and ideology, he's the guy who makes those little you're-going-to-hell-if-you-(fill in the blank) comics that your recently 'saved' relatives tried and push on you at holiday dinners.
(Original heads-up: Journalista)

Find a new home for your beer hat, Auto Trader magazines, and that ashtray full of stale Cheesy Puffs. NASCAR has a coffee table book. Portraits of NASCAR by Anita Rich and Robin Dallenbach is a look inside the lives and loves of Wal-Mart circular covermodels Tony Stewart, Dale Earnhardt Jr, Jimmie Johnson, Rusty Wallace and Richard Childress. Oh, and just in time for Black History month!

Seattle PI: "Seattle police are looking for a man who attempted to mail to Paris a box full of books packed with handgun parts and ammunition. An alert clerk at a Wallingford UPS Store was preparing to ship the plastic-wrapped books on Jan. 31 when she noticed that one of the hardbacks rattled, according to police reports. The woman shook the book and spotted a gun part slipping through the pages. The clerk phoned police Monday, after attempting to contact the sender. Searching the books, officers found a disassembled Beretta handgun, three loaded magazines and two boxes of 9mm ammunition hidden in hollowed copies of Richard Tarnas’ Cosmos and Psyche, Isaac Asimov’s Chronology of the World, and a communications text."
(Original heads-up: Quill and Quire)

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Big News for Browncoats

Firefly (the Joss Whedon sci-fi show canceled due to limited viewership that was then be brought back for a feature film because of that same limited viewership's outspoken internet presence) has a tie in novel, and the author, Steven Brust, has just posted the entire thing online for free.
While Firefly's faithful fans, the Browncoats, see this book as proof that their beloved series will soon be attaining the cult status of, say, Star Trek, the fact that no one in my immediate vicinity can even name one character or catch phrase from the series makes me think that it still has a long ways to go. Until then, may the Browncoats bask in the light of their new bible, the Dr. Phil-ishly titled, My Own Kind of Freedom.

To download this epic tome, click here.

(Editor's Note: By referring to My Own Kind of Freedom as though it were the first novel to expand the Firefly mythology, we were in no way trying to invalidate the reams of poorly edited, semi-pornographic Firefly fanfic currently floating around the internet.)

Initial heads up: IO9

Book News, In Brief

Virgin Books is going to launch a horror imprint later this year. Their first two releases are Conrad Williams' The Unblemished and Ramsey Cambell's Grin of the Dark. Hopefully, these will be better than the uber-crappy comic books that Virgin has been putting out. I mean, have any of you actually tried to read Jenna Jameson's The Shadow Hunter?

Via Powell's Books: "Judge Zadie Smith (White Teeth, On Beauty) didn't think the stories submitted to this year's Willesden Herald International Short Story Prize stood up to her standards of greatness, so she declared that, by gum, there shall be no winners! 'Our sole criterion is quality. We simply wanted to see some really great stories. And we received a whole bunch of stories. We dutifully read through hundreds of them. But in the end — we have to be honest — we could not find the greatness we'd hoped for. It's for this reason that we have decided not to give out the prize this year.'"

Over at Boneville, Colleen Doran (A Distant Soil, Sandman) has written a brief remembrance about her time spent self-publishing comic books in the 90's.
There are highs: "At some shows, Dave Sim provided the core self publishers with limo service, as well as other ruffles and flourishes that supported a successful image. All base expenses were our individual responsibility, but limousine service made us look good, and The Guru of self publishing wanted to look good. Making self publishing look good was more important than the objective reality that self publishing was unlikely to be good for almost everyone trying to do it."
And there are lows: "Most people never made a dime of profit self publishing. More lost a small fortune. Some lost big. Caught up in the excitement and promise of big money and convention fame, they heaped scorn on anyone who tried to warn them. A few of us (like me) even loaned promising creators money. And we never saw these people (or our cash) ever again."

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Cormac McCarthy on Oprah

Click here for parts two, three, four and five.

Poetry News, In Brief

France's first lady and Mick Jagger's ex, Carla Bruni, is about to release a disc of poetry. Her verses may be trite, but that cover image oughtta help keep sales erect afloat.

Promises Like Pie Crust

Promise me no promises,
So will I not promise you:
Keep we both our liberties,
Never false and never true:
Let us hold the die uncast,
Free to come as free to go:
For I cannot know your past,
And of mine what can you know?

The NYTimes has an interview with poet laureate Charles Simic, wherein he rates the current state of poetry in the US ("It is doing quite well"), criticizes the self-help book market ("It’s really frightening"), and reveals the secret to happiness ("For starters, learn how to cook").

The Partial Explanation

Seems like a long time
Since the waiter took my order.
Grimy little luncheonette,
The snow falling outside.

Seems like it has grown darker
Since I last heard the kitchen door
Behind my back
Since I last noticed
Anyone pass on the street.

A glass of ice-water
Keeps me company
At this table I chose myself
Upon entering.

And a longing,
Incredible longing
To eavesdrop
On the conversation
Of cooks.

The Boston Globe thumbs its nose at the nose-in-the-air-elite, running a group of poetry reviews featuring the work of witty poets. Kenneth Koch, X. J. Kennedy, and Brad Leithauser all get their heads patted.

Nude Descending a Staircase

Toe upon toe, a snowing flesh,
A gold of lemon, root and rind,
She sifts in sunlight down the stairs
With nothing on. Nor on her mind.

We spy beneath the banister
A constant thresh of thigh on thigh.
Her lips imprint the swinging air
That parts to let her parts go by.

One-woman waterfall, she wears
Her slow descent like a long cape
And pausing, on the final stair
Collects her motions into shape.

(X.J. Kennedy)

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Remember That Jimbo Doll You Didn't Get Me For Christmas?

Well, I still want that, but I want this even more: a 2 volume, 688 page tome dedicated to the life and art of cartoonist Gary Panter! The mind reels in robust shades of messy magic marker! This thing looks to be the alt/art-comics equivalent to Tim Lucas' lovingly assembled/authoritative last word on Mario Bava, All The Colors Of The Dark. Darn it, my palms are sweating, and it's not due out 'til May.

See also: That ol' Jimbo Doll post

Book News, In Brief

Massachusetts is supposed to be a bastion of liberal thinking, dammit. Via "Two sets of parents whose lawsuit over the use of a gay-themed book by a Lexington, MA public school was dismissed by a federal appeals court say they will take the case to the US Supreme Court." Apparently, pops couldn't handle hearing his kid switch 'I hate you and I wish that I was never born' with 'I hate you and I wish that I were born to two legally wed mommies, the product of an in vitro fertilization.'

Via "Thirteen people were arrested in Turkey last week in connection with a plot that included killing Nobel laureate Orham Pamuk, according to reports in the Turkish media. Turkish press reported that the ultra-nationalist gang is suspected of planning Pamuk's murder as part of a plot to sow chaos in preparation for a military coup in 2009.
"Turkish human rights advocates said they are hoping the investigation will probe illegal activity within the military and judiciary. High ranking officials have previously been protected because of their status, a spokesman for Istanbul's Free Expression Initiative told the British newspaper the Guardian. According to a report in the Wall Street Journal, Turkey is engaged in an attempt to revise its laws restricting free speech. However, just this Monday writer Atilla Yayla was given a 15-month suspended sentence for suggesting that Ataturk, the founder of modern Turkey, was not progressive."

Lastly, the World Book Day committee has released their shortlist for the Books to Talk About prize. It is:

Steve Aylett, Lint
Priya Basil, Ishq & Mushq
Jenny Downham, Before I Die
Eliza Graham, Playing with the Moon
Joshilyn Jackson, Gods In Alabama
Candi Miller, Salt & Honey
Pauline Rowson, In Cold Daylight
Rupert Thomson, Death of a Murderer
Jonathan Trigell, Boy A
Angela Young, Speaking of Love

For more information, the Guardian UK has a nice article here.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Ed Brubaker, As Interviewed By Bill Hader

Via MySpace:

Book News, In Brief

James Frey has a new book, and this time he's admitting it's fiction. All of you crybaby bi**hes who loved A Million Little Pieces until you found out it was fake oughtta be the first ones in line for this one. After all, you were clearly impressed with his prose. Oh, but you say that you're the sort of reader that can only enjoy a book about suffering, effed up junkies when you think that the effed up junkies were really suffering, right? Yikes. Remind me to keep you away from small children and defenseless animals.

Via the generically titled, Daily News Tribune: "Leah Bruosta’s fifth-grade class knows the ins and outs of running a magazine. Over the last few months, Bruosta’s class at MacArthur Elementary School met with student authors, reviewed material and crammed to meet the deadline for the recently published school literary magazine, The MacArthur MacAuthors."
While one has to commend Bruosta for coming up with such a cool project for her students, one also has to admit that a literary magazine is about as relevant to today's world as a steam engine railroad car. (Editor's Note: Or a less-than-literary, literature-themed blog.)

There was a time when MAD Magazine was one of the sharpest, funniest, most subversive works of satire on the news stand. It was SPY magazine for kids, and The New Yorker for Jersey residents. Hell, even Alan Moore credits it as being one of the foremost influences on his writing. Unfortunately, for the past few decades, Mad Magazine has been little more than a weak pastiche of pop culture parodies and fart jokes. But could all of that be changing? Yesterday's NYTimes spilled the beans on MAD's hiring of ten Pulitzer Prize winning political cartoonists to illustrate "Why George W. Bush Is in Favor of Global Warming." I guess we'll have to wait until next Sunday's paper to see if MAD has got The Daily Show's writers scripting their Cloverfield lampoon.

Comic Book News, In Brief

This is one of those news items that only older comics nerds will give a damn about, but believe me when I say that those older fans will give a damn. DC Comics has announced the return of Ambush Bug, with story and art by the character's creator, Keith Giffen.

Over at, they've been hosting a week long Criminal-fest that I only just caught wind of. Late last week they put up the first issues of the first two stories, Coward and Lawless. Then, on Friday, they posted a chat between Daredevil artist Michael Lark and Criminal artist Sean Phillips. And now today, "an exclusive video surprise" from Ed Brubaker, the book's writer. Criminal is one of best crime comics out, so a glimpse into these guys' working process is a real treat.

NPR continues to mine the indie comics A-list, this time with an audio interview with Adrian Tomine. I'd gotten a bit bored with Tomine's work, but his most recent nerdy-Asian-boy-meets-beautiful-hipster storyline/graphic novel, Shortcomings, is a good reminder of what he's capable of.